Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Philippines

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Philippines , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At least 150,000 Filipinos remained internally displaced at the end of 2003. Some 57,000 Filipino refugees remained in Malaysia. Almost all of the displaced persons and refugees were Muslims who had fled fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Muslim insurgent groups.

The Philippines hosted over 2,100 refugees and asylum seekers from various countries at year's end, including 76 persons recognized under the mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; 32 persons recognized as refugees by the Philippines (including some approved in previous years whose status was not yet permanent); and 38 persons whose claims were pending with the government.

During the year, 14 persons sought asylum in the Philippines. The government decided 19 cases (including some pending from the previous year), granting 9 and rejecting 10.

The Philippines continued to host nearly 2,000 Vietnamese who had been determined not to be refugees under the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), which ended in 1996. The Philippines was the only country in Southeast Asia to permit Vietnamese denied refugee status under the CPA to remain. The Philippine government has considered granting permanent residence to the remaining Vietnamese, and bills to that effect have been introduced in parliament, but the government has failed to pass any. At the end of the year, the United States was considering resettling them.

At least 1,500 Filipinos sought asylum in other countries in 2003.

Internal Displacement

(For background, see Over 400,000 civilians were newly uprooted during the year because of fighting between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as government anti-terrorist operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Many of those newly internally displaced had returned to their homes by year's end, although 150,000 civilians, mostly Muslims, remained displaced either in evacuation centers or sheltering with relatives or friends. Many are unwilling or unable to return home because of trauma, the presence of rebel forces, forced recruitment, or landmines.

In February, the military launched a major offensive against the MILF near Pikit town in North Cotabo province causing thousands to flee the bombing, killing, fighting, looting, and burning of homes. The military tortured some it accused of being MILF supporters, including four indigenous and two Muslim farmers in North Cotabo province in March. Many, afraid the government would accuse them as well, fled and the military ordered others to leave. On July 19, the MILF and government agreed on a mutual cessation of hostilities.

The government did not provide adequate assistance for the displaced, and there were food shortages in some overcrowded evacuation centers. According to Mindanews, some 94 persons died in evacuation centers in North Cotabo province.

Fighting in Mindanao, the second largest island in the country, a site of ethnic struggle for independence for the last 30 years, was another source of major displacement. In 2002, there had been skirmishes but many of the displaced had been able to return to their homes. Fighting started again in February 2003, and at least 350,000 were newly internally displaced. The ASG used civilians as human shields during clashes with government forces, took civilians as hostages, tortured, and sometimes beheaded them.

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